Thursday, November 1, 2012

Value of human beings in religion



I am very wary of people who are religious by profession.  My experience is that they are more eager to receive than give.  They look for donations, offerings, and other means of accumulating wealth without doing any creative or productive work.  So it did not come as a surprise to me when a friend of mine narrated his experience.

His school was taken over recently from a Trust by a religious cult.  One of the first things the cultists did was to curtail the rights and privileges of the staff.  Given below is an extract from a letter issued by them to some of the staff members, most of whom have been working in the institution for about ten years.
Name of school and designation of staff blacked out


The Trust which was running the school formerly was paying the staff according to recommendations of the Sixth Pay Commission, though a few allowances were not given due to financial constraints.  Had it not been for the financial constraints, the Trust would have paid the salaries in full.  The Trust which was not religious by profession was honest in its financial dealings with the staff.  But the Cult which is religious by profession turns out to be an epitome of greed.  Their primary interest seems to lie not in the quality of education that the school should provide or the welfare of the staff and others people connected with the school.  They seem to be more concerned about the profits that the school can accrue to their ever-mounting assets. 

The staff have been converted into contract labourers, the contract being for a period of three months.  What a ridiculous downscaling!  Worse, “the contract renewal is contingent upon your (the staff’s) satisfactory performance as [designation of the staff, blacked out], based over School’s evaluation criteria.  The contract can be terminated at the instance of the School, anytime without giving any notice if work performance is not found satisfactory....” 

We may choose to ignore the legalese and its grammar(lessness).  But the condition of satisfactoriness imposed cannot be ignored.  It implies that anybody can be thrown out of job for any reason – e.g., not flattering the boss?

The most hilarious clause is what is numbered 5.  It reads: “It is duly agreed by both the parties that there is no employer employee relationship between the parties.”  What other relationship is there between and employer and the employee?  There’s no explanation given at all.

This is happening in the state of New Delhi whose High Court has always ruled that the teachers should be paid according to the stipulated pay scales.  For example, “the teachers of unaided private schools are entitled to same pay and emoluments as those of government schools,” says a report in The Economic Times dated 13 May 2012, quoting a Delhi High Court order rejecting an appeal by a private school.  “Minority school ordered to pay notified salaries to staff,” is the headline of a Hindu report on 9 Sep 2012.  “The Delhi High Court has ruled that minority institutions here in the Capital are not exempted from paying salaries and allowances as notified by the Directorate of Education of the Delhi Government,” says the report.  How will the cultists above then get away with what they have done?

Maybe, they will with the help of their financial clout.  But then, what human values do they possess?  How will they justify their religiousness to their followers or, at least, the staff working for them?  What values do they intend to pass on to the students in their educational institutions?

Is religion merely another commercial enterprise?  As a friend of mine says frequently, is religion merely a mask for covering up dishonourable deeds?

In his very first address to teachers on Teacher’s Day, President Pranab Mukherjee said: “Your [Teachers’] sacred duty is to enable your pupils to construct knowledge, to discover their own talents, and to develop their physical and interpersonal skills, cognitive abilities and subject-matter expertise. Education must enrich their minds, broaden their horizons and give them ever lasting hunger for exploring new ideas and vistas of opportunity.” 

That’s a noble vision for teachers.  But will teachers be able to fulfil that vision if they are deprived of basic job security? 

If religious leaders forget such fundamentals, who will remember them?

18 comments:

  1. Sad for the teachers and the students.I think they may start interfering in teaching too.

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  2. I think this goes beyond religion. It is no secret that most educational institutions are run as a business and whatever altruistic motivation may have been present disappears with the onset of business ground realities. I know of schools that are nurtured by the initial promoters for 7 to 10 years with the objective of being sold off at a profit. Two or three years before the strategized sale, administrators and staff are "shuffled" to give shape to the deal, with the sole objective of improving profitability. From that point on, teachers and students stop being human beings with any value beyond that of salespersons and consumers. I am sure this is not news to you, and I hope you will write about it sometime.

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    Replies
    1. Absolutely right, Subhorup. Teachers and students have become "salespersons and consumers." Since I teach in a residential school where the contact between teachers and students is almost like in a family, the situation is slightly better than in day schools. But I'm familiar with certain day schools too where it is commerce and not education that takes place.

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  3. Well, that is obnoxious as the word goes. I agree with Subhorup when he says it 'goes beyond religion'. They are just Shylocks of the trade. What the letter does additionally, it heaps disgrace on the religion too, whatever the credentials. Also, I believe the contract is void Ab Initio. By its very nature a contract is unalterable and any changes or deviations annul the same. How can anyone be made to sign a contract that says that the covenants can be altered ex parte?

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    Replies
    1. First of all, Umashankar, it does go beyond religion. I highlighted the religious part only to show that even religion has become a commercial enterprise - what is the hope for education then?

      Yes, the contract is absurd. I guess the persons concerned will go in for legal procedures. This contract, as you imply, smacks of bonded labour.

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  4. Frankly speaking this doesn't come as a surprise to me. In India the most lucrative businesses for the unscrupulous are: Religion and Education
    Sabyasachi

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    Replies
    1. Even I am not surprised. I feel sad for the persons concerned, for the victims. I feel happy, on the other hand, that people like me who think of ourselves as a hypocrites and rebels and what not (labels given by other people) turn out to be far better human beings than the so-called religious persons.

      Ultimately, it remains a sad affair. Because the victims are known to me.

      Delete
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    ReplyDelete
  6. You had no right to ask the question, "What other relationship is there between and employer and the employee?" It is for your readers to ask and for you to answer. You tried preempting that possibility! Shame on you Matheikal :)

    Can that statement stand the test of law and what sort of law could have foreseen that clause in a contract? All of these is truly beyond me.

    RE

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    Replies
    1. Raghuram, worse than all the clauses is what happened today. The people concerned have not been given the salary for the first week of October. The reason: that one week is simply erased from their service history in order to show (before the law) that there is a "break" in the service. Can you believe that? Being done by an organisation whose leader has lakhs of followers (devotees) all over the world?

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    2. They are all devotees of the God of Mammon!

      But, why one week? Why not one day; even that be a break in service!

      RE

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  7. Sir,
    1. Is this supposed to be our school?
    2. This is bonded labor - punishable by law.
    3. I the fourth point - 'the school may make changes to the contract as and when it wanted' and I assume its without the consent of the teacher - ridiculous and preposterous.
    4. Increasingly people are taking up teaching as a last resort. The answer is right here.

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  8. This is a case that at least needs to be 'leaked' to Press.If the organisation indeed has a leader who has lakhs of followers (devotees) all over the world, it will damage their public 'image'.

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    Replies
    1. Aditi, I too thought of that. Who will bell the cat?

      Delete

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